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Man Arrested for Gang Killing

Wilfredo Montoya-Baires is one of two men charged in a suspected gang-related murder.

A Reston man who police believe is a member of the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was charged Friday in the slaying of a Manassas Park man shot to death earlier in the week at a party.

Wilfredo Montoya-Baires, 25, was one of two people charged with first-degree murder and the use of a firearm in commission of a felony in the killing of Jose N. Escobar, 22, during a party in Manassas. On Sunday, police also arrested and charged Reynaldo Alexander Cordova, 21, a resident of Falls Church, in connection with the murder.

Montoya-Baires, a construction worker, lives on the 3000 block of Patrick Henry Drive. Both Montoya-Baires, also known as "Nino," and Cordova are allegedly members of MS-13, Northern Virginia's largest gang.

Details of what exactly happened at the party remain unclear, said Detective Dennis Mangan, Prince William County Police Department spokesman.

"It's still an ongoing investigation," he said. "We're trying to figure out what exactly happened."

A cross-jurisdictional investigation led police to Montoya-Baires and Cordova, who both agreed to be questioned in Prince William County, where they were subsequently arrested.

Both Montoya-Baires and Cordova are being held at the Prince William County Adult Detention Center without bond. They will stand trial in Prince William County General District Court on Sept. 21, according to police.

MS-13, which police believe has roughly 2,500 members in Northern Virginia, has drawn increased attention in recent months since its members severely mutilated the hands of a rival gang member with a machete in Alexandria on May 10.

The following week, a gang member shot and killed a 17-year-old boy and wounded a teenage girl in Herndon. While the Herndon Police Department does not specify which gang, the shooter is believed to be a MS-13 member.

The gang, comprised primarily of El Salvadoran immigrants, was first recognized as a growing threat in Reston in June 2001, when MS-13 members beat to death Fredy Reyes-Castillo, 22, for pretending to be a member of their gang.

Halting gang violence in general has been a priority for Fairfax County Police since 1997, when escalating attacks caused the creation of a Fairfax County Police Department gang unit of 10 specialized detectives.

According to an FBI report, MS-13 specifically is known to operate in at least 31 states and in Washington, D.C., with more than 8,000 members. Though it is based out of Los Angeles, the gang is also concentrated in Northern Virginia, New York and Long Island.

The FBI estimates there are at least 30 MS-13 active cells operating in Northern Virginia, with its members responsible for roughly 95 percent of all gang-related crimes in Fairfax County alone, including armed robbery, theft, car theft, drug dealing, rape, murder and assault.

At least half a dozen killings across Northern Virginia have been linked to MS-13, according to police.

FOLLOWING the machete attack and Herndon murder in May, Gov. Mark Warner (D) announced in Herndon that he was expanding anti-gang efforts throughout the region. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R) also announced he would secure an additional $500,000 to fight gangs in the area.

Last month, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created a Coordinating Council to fight gangs in the county through early identification and prevention rather than traditional law enforcement. The council is intended to streamline anti-gang outreach and education activities between police, school and county officials.